The Republican convention in Tampa closed with a rousing battle speech by its presidential candidate, Mitt Romney that, while solid, didn't measure up to the supporting cast of speeches leading up to his.
Hispanic Sen. Marco Rubio radiated charisma and common sense when he said the "problem is not that Obama isn't a good person -- he's not a bad person; the problem is that he's a bad president." If Romney's elected, Rubio is a guy who's going places in the administration.
Most appealing -- and had every delegate in tears -- were a couple of tributes from ordinary people who recalled that as far back as 30 years ago when on of their kids was dying, Romney was there for them, doing what he could, and in one case delivering the eulogy. Another dying kid wanted to make a will, as to who would get his skateboard, his baseball glove, his books. There was Romney on the doorstep with a yellow notepad to help the kid write his will. You could tell these two families would walk through fire for Romney -- a Romney that few know.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was smooth and effective, and seems headed for a post in a Romney administration should the stars align themselves as Republicans hope. And then there was the surprise appearance of Clint Eastwood, which virtually every commentator (CNN, MSNBC, Huffington Post) knocked as embarrassing, disrespectful to President Obama, meanderings of a senile old man.
What rubbish! Eastwood was brilliant and devastatingly funny when you caught on to what he was doing by interviewing an empty chair in which he pretended Obama was sitting. Yes, Eastwood bumbled and muttered, ad-libbing, but he had the delegates howling with laughter as his mock conversation with the voodoo president shredded Obama more effectively than polemical scolding.
"You don't vote for a president because he's a nice person -- or maybe not so nice judging from his ads," said Eastwood. "When someone can't do the job, you've got to let him go... politicians are our employees... after the election of Romney you (Obama) can still use the plane -- but a smaller one."
And then, as if answering a rude retort by Obama: "I can't do that to myself either, Mr. President."
I guess you had to be there, but delegates were rolling in the aisles.
Romney's speech was unusually personal. What came across was a thoroughly decent man who is a hard worker -- something Obama clearly isn't, witness not one cabinet meeting this year, and a bunch of holidays, and obsessive attending of fundraisers.
"I wish President Obama had succeeded (in reviving the economy) because I want America to succeed," said Romney, reflecting the feelings of many. "My country deserves better."
Things like: "Obama took office with no experience in business. I learned from my experience in business," and mentioned Staples stores as one on his success stories. He deplored Obama's penchant for attacking success, "when in America we celebrate success... it's time to restore the promise of America."
Romney said "many have given up on this president, but haven't given up on themselves, or on America... he's crushed the middle-class... his policies have not created jobs, they have destroyed jobs," (by selling, coal, energy and manufacturing to the Chinese).
On the topic of international relations, he said, "In my administration (Russia's President) Putin will see less flexibility -- and more backbone."
And so it went.
Cheers and balloons at the end, with commentators respectful but unable to stop sniping at Clint Eastwood, whose 12 minutes of monologue has gone viral (whatever that means) but which remains a highlight of the convention.
Next week it will be the Democrats' turn in Charlotte, North Carolina, when we'll be treated to rhetoric about how great Barack Obama is, and how dreadful Republicans are.
"You are an -- an ecological man. Why would you want to drive that around?"
"You're crazy, you're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden. Of course we all now Biden is the intellect of the Democratic party."
"I think attorneys are so busy -- you know they're always taught to argue everything, and always weight everything -- weigh both sides. They are always devil's advocating this and bifurcating this and bifurcating that. You know all that stuff."
"There are a lot of conservative people, a lot of moderate people, Republicans, Democrats, in Hollywood. It is just that the conservative people by the nature of the word itself play closer to the vest. They do not go around hot-dogging it."
"I mean, what do you say to people? Do you just -- you know -- I know -- people were wondering -- you don't -- handle that OK."
"But you thought the war in Afghanistan was OK. You know, I mean -- you thought that was something worth doing. We didn't check with the Russians to see how they did there for the 10 years."
"Whenever interest they have is not strong enough, and I think possibly now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem."
"What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. I can't tell him to do that to himself."
"And I think it's that time. And I think if you just step aside and Mr. Romney can kind of take over. You can maybe still use a plane."
"What I'm saying, we do not have to be mental masochists and vote for somebody that we don't really even want in office just because they seem to be nice guys or maybe not so nice guys."